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Metal Ways to Die: Decapitation

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You, like everyone else, are going to die. But that doesn’t mean your death has to be boring. Fuck being surrounded by weeping family members — leave the world a story! Welcome to Metal Ways To Die, where we take a look at the most killer ways to mosh off of this mortal coil. Death to false death!

Welcome to our first installment of Metal Ways To Die! Death is scary and upsetting, to be sure, and if you’re a metalhead you likely want your own death to be as scary and upsetting as humanly possible. Here, we’ll examine the most awesome ways to die, who wore them best, how they can still be false, and what music goes best with them!

First up, a classic…

DECAPITATION

History: Since the dawn of humanity, decapitation has been the go-to form of execution; when the first caveman sharpened the edge of an animal’s jaw, he probably wondered if he could chop off someone’s head with it. Over the years, the act has been altered, refined, and streamlined, but the basics always remain the same: the blade goes through the neck, the head pops off.

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For the Mayans, decapitation was an important ritual, especially of enemy kings and especially before a ballgame (hey, beats the national anthem). Cutting off someone’s head often paid homage to the Mayan maize god, who had his dome lopped off by the Mayan death gods. The Celts, meanwhile, developed a cultish obsession with the severed head, with warriors hanging the heads of their enemies from the necks of their horses. In certain countries such as China, it was disrespectful death, but in most of Europe it was considered an honorable form of execution (as opposed to, say, getting drawn and quartered or covered with honey and left for insects).

Then, of course, there were the famed and often misrepresented headhunters of Southeast Asia and South America. In the former, the removal of a head was a ritual tied to manhood and fertility, and focused on a spiritual force within the skull. For the latter, the head was a trophy containing the soul of the slain, and was often shrunk (don’t be fooled, guys — if you’re buying a shrunken head today, it’s made of goat or sloth skin).

Medieval times saw decapitation as an honorable way to die, performed sometimes with an axe but also commonly with a massive sword (Joel F. Harrington’s The Faithful Executioner, detailing the life of Nuremberg’s famous executioner Franz Schmidt, is a great read). Of course, the pinnacle of decapitation technology was the guillotine, which provided an ultra-thin weighted blade to make the act as swift and painless as possible. Of course, when the French Revolution struck, many of the guillotine’s biggest fans experience it first-hand (though it’s a myth that Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was killed by the device — in fact, the dude was against the death penalty).

Why It’s So Metal: Man, where to begin? Decapitation is brutal, to the point, and results in a severed head, which is one of the creepiest images/totems in the world. By cutting someone’s head off, you make their body faceless and often unrecognizable, stripped of the mind that gave it purpose. The act also causes a massive spray of blood, turning a death into a gorefest. It’s death in its most basic and gruesome form.

Ultra-Brutal Version: The rip! Getting your head chopped off is one thing, but having it forcibly pulled off is fucking insane. That thing’s fixed on there pretty well, so to wrench it off… man, that is hardcore.

False Version: It’s near impossible to get decapitated in a way that isn’t totally metal.

Famous Cases:

  • Orpheus, the mythic musician who was ripped apart by the Bacchae and whose immortal severed head was believed to survive his mutilated body.
  • John the Baptist, baptizer of Christ, whose gourd was taken as a present for Salome.
  • St. Dennis, bishop of Paris, who is said to have picked up his severed head and walked six miles with it, preaching as he went.
  • Anne Boleyn, Queen of England for three years, whose head was lopped off in a single stroke by a swordsman imported from France.
  • Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, who lost her head during the Terror.
  • Maximilien Robespierre, leader in the French Revolution who met poetic justice under the guillotine.

Anyone or anything I forget? Let us know where your head’s at in the Comments section. In the meantime, here’s a playlist of some killer decapitation tunes for you.

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